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Boy Gang

Peter Prince, 19 January 1984

Minor Characters 
by Joyce Johnson.
Collins, 262 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 00 272511 8
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Neurotica: The Authentic Voice of the Beat Generation 1948-1951 
edited by Jay Landesman and G. Legman.
Jay Landesman, 535 pp., £19.95, July 1981, 0 905150 26 0
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Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac 
by Gerald Nicosia.
Grove, 767 pp., £14.95, October 1983, 0 394 52270 2
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... deities – overwhelming images of warning, perfection, adoration and revenge. He was born in the winter of 1922 in the French Canadian section of Lowell, Massachusetts, the third child and second son of Leo and Gabrielle Kerouac. Within the family, within the small, isolated Cannuck community, he was known from the first as ‘Ti-Jean’ – ‘Little ...


Inigo Thomas: Michael Wolff’s Book Party, 8 February 2018

... he was there soon enough: for breakfast the next day. I went up in the elevator with Edward Jay Epstein, once a conspiracy theorist on the Kennedy assassination and a party-giver at his Upper East Side apartment, and we walked into what used to be an artist’s studio. Drinks, canapés, hello, your name is, I’m Inigo, what, Inigo who’s ...

Warfare and Welfare

Paul Addison, 24 July 1986

The Audit of War: The Illusion and Reality of Britain as a Great Nation 
by Correlli Barnett.
Macmillan, 359 pp., £14.95, March 1986, 0 333 35376 5
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The Great War and the British People 
by J.M. Winter.
Macmillan, 360 pp., £25, February 1986, 0 333 26582 3
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... national asset. The same was true of Britain during the Great War, as may be discovered from Jay Winter’s superb scholarly analysis. The subject-matter is more specialised than his title suggests. This is a socio-economic historian’s investigation of the impact of war on population trends and civilian health, with an epilogue, which reads a bit ...

Neutered Valentines

David Bromwich: James Agee, 7 September 2006

‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’, ‘A Death in the Family’, Shorter Fiction 
by James Agee.
Library of America, 818 pp., $35, October 2005, 1 931082 81 2
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Film Writing and Selected Journalism 
by James Agee.
Library of America, 748 pp., $40, October 2005, 1 931082 82 0
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Brooklyn Is 
by James Agee.
Fordham, 64 pp., $16.95, October 2005, 0 8232 2492 9
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... question underlies the instructions and acknowledgments that pass between members of the family of Jay Follet on the day after his death. Rufus, the son, wants to believe that his father was good, and he comes to believe it, over the murmur of voices with hints and rumours that he was a drinker and a fast driver and a poor breadwinner, and over the priest’s ...


Colin McGinn: A Philosopher in LA, 4 September 1986

... the water the colour of Paul Newman’s eyes, though it was deemed too cold to be usable in ‘winter’. (Appropriately enough, I had met Hockney during my previous visit to LA, through my artist brother. His brother was there too, giving, I think, financial advice to the painter. Looking out over LA, Hockney’s brother thrilled us with tales of his ...

Damnable Deficient

Colin Kidd: The American Revolution, 17 November 2005

1776: America and Britain at War 
by David McCullough.
Allen Lane, 386 pp., £25, June 2005, 0 7139 9863 6
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... in honour of the Federalist Papers (1787-88) published by Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, is a conservative law society dedicated to upholding with unswerving rigidity the original intent of the constitution’s founders. By 1998, the Society had around five thousand student members at 145 law schools, as well as fifteen thousand practising ...

Fond Father

Dinah Birch: A Victorian Naturalist, 19 September 2002

Glimpses of the Wonderful: The Life of Philip Henry Gosse 1810-88 
by Ann Thwaite.
Faber, 387 pp., £25, October 2002, 0 571 19328 5
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... had been the great business of life.’ He supplemented his meagre income by teaching through the winter months. This drudgery brought nothing more than subsistence; he left the farm poorer than he’d been when he arrived. But he had gathered the materials for The Canadian Naturalist, his first book. His health, faith and optimism were undamaged by the bleak ...

Digging up the Ancestors

R.W. Johnson, 14 November 1996

Hugh Gaitskell 
by Brian Brivati.
Cohen, 492 pp., £25, September 1996, 1 86066 073 8
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... who sought the company, within the Party, of fellow Wykehamists (Richard Crossman, Douglas Jay), other public school boys (Benn, Crosland) or public school wannabes like Roy Jenkins, and who, to top it all, was having an affair with an aristocratic Tory woman and loved nothing better than to dance the night away at the Gargoyle Club, the haunt of ...

The Road to West Egg

Thomas Powers, 4 July 2013

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of ‘The Great Gatsby’ 
by Sarah Churchwell.
Virago, 306 pp., £16.99, June 2013, 978 1 84408 766 2
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The Great Gatsby 
directed by Baz Luhrmann.
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... the next. Most of what he got down on paper was tossed out until things began to come together as winter ended in early 1924. Fitzgerald’s faith in his novel grew as he laboured to make it ‘the very best I’m capable of … or even as I feel sometimes, something better than I’m capable of’. Perkins received and considered many title variants as the ...

Questionably Virtuous

Stuart Middleton: Harold Wilson, 8 September 2016

Harold Wilson: The Unprincipled Prime Minister? Reappraising Harold Wilson 
edited by Andrew Crines and Kevin Hickson.
Biteback, 319 pp., £20, March 2016, 978 1 78590 031 0
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... the key decisions fell to Wilson and two inexperienced colleagues, Hugh Gaitskell and Douglas Jay. He responded to their calm assurance with a calculating vacillation that laid the basis for a lasting distrust, even as devaluation was agreed on and announced in September 1949. The economy recovered more quickly than ministerial relations, which worsened ...

Such amateurishness …

Neal Ascherson: The Sufferings of a Young Nazi, 30 April 2009

The Kindly Ones 
by Jonathan Littell, translated by Charlotte Mandell.
Chatto, 984 pp., £20, March 2009, 978 0 7011 8165 9
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... not to take part in the shooting, and suffered no punishment. The other helpful book is Robert Jay Lifton’s magnificent The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide (1986). Lifton interviewed a number of doctors who had worked at Auschwitz, some of them prisoners and others SS medical officers on the camp staff. No research comes ...

Shockingly Worldly

David Runciman: The Abbé Sieyès, 23 October 2003

Emmanuel Sieyès: Political Writings 
edited by Michael Sonenscher.
Hackett, 256 pp., $34.95, September 2003, 0 87220 430 8
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... to prevent the state taking on new ones, including a new national debt. For Sieyès, during the winter of 1788-89, the stakes were even higher. He was terrified that the King himself would renege on his debts, and that the people’s representatives would not try to stop him. The profligacy of the King and his Court had produced the crisis of the state’s ...

Avoid the Orient

Colm Tóibín: The Ghastly Paul Bowles, 4 January 2007

Paul Bowles: A Life 
by Virginia Spencer Carr.
Peter Owen, 431 pp., £19.95, July 2005, 0 7206 1254 3
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... gave me the original impetus to consider the possibility of writing a novel’. In 1985, he told Jay McInerney: ‘I got really interested in the whole process, and thought, I wish I had written this book. I started writing stories about two years after she published her novel.’ He translated Sartre’s Huis Clos and Borges’s story ‘The Circular ...

Even more immortal

Paul Driver, 8 April 1993

Memories of Beethoven: From the House of the Black-Robed Spaniards 
by Gerhard von Breuning, edited by Maynard Solomon, translated by Henry Mins and Maynard Solomon.
Cambridge, 154 pp., £15.95, November 1992, 0 521 41710 4
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Beethoven: Studies in the Creative Process 
by Lewis Lockwood.
Harvard, 283 pp., £31.95, July 1992, 0 674 06362 7
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... audience, Lockwood makes a rare foray into figurative language. With a flourish worthy of Stephen Jay Gould, he produces a metaphor drawn from Swift and the Scientific American to exemplify the idea that there is an ‘approximate correlation between the size of a work of art and the “amount of aesthetic experience” that it contains’. That implied ...

Cod on Ice

Andy Beckett: The BBC, 10 July 2003

Panorama: Fifty Years of Pride And Paranoia 
by Richard Lindley.
Politico’s, 404 pp., £18.99, September 2002, 1 902301 80 3
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The Harder Path: The Autobiography 
by John Birt.
Time Warner, 532 pp., £20, October 2002, 0 316 86019 0
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... in the script and read out lyrical sentences about city fogs over footage of farmers ploughing for winter, and vice versa. The whole programme was broadcast live. The BBC cancelled the next edition. But not the show: in 1953, with only one TV channel available, nearly half the entire adult viewing public had watched the first Panorama. According to the BBC’s ...

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